"In an open letter to customers Friday, (March 18 2016) Staples and Office Depot defend their planned merger and hint that they are willing to divest more to make wholesaler Essendant a more competitive rival."
I don't disagree entirely but the independent channel deals with mostly small and mid size businesses. Those customers are choosing more and more to buy online through Amazon, myofficesupply, Shoplet etc. which retails at a lower cost than Essendant is selling through dealers. Millennials are moving into the buying positions and they, generally, see little value in a local independent.
Also, you'll notice that if there's a chance in hell the SPLS/ODP merger goes through it will only be if they sell all the contract business to Essendant. How do you think that plays out? They just give that business to existing dealers or they start selling to end users?
The industry has completely changed thanks to the Internet. I point to the OMX/ODP merger and subsequent ODP/SPLS proposed merger as evidence. These mergers are about survival not cornering the market.
The other issue is that almost all manufacturer's sell direct now with a large percentage on Amazon Prime at net/net pricing. Essendant, or buying groups with large minimums, can't compete with that.